Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The limits of phonics (and phonemic awareness)

Sent to the New York Times, Sept. 8, 2015

Daniel Willingham's approval of the findings of The National Reading Panel is not justified ("Teachers aren't dumb," Sept. 8).
   The panel decided that teachers need to know the fine details of phonological awareness (sensitivity to individual sounds in words). There is very little research directly linking phonemic awareness training and improvement in reading comprehension, and many people learn to read quite well with little phonological awareness.
   The panel also decided that teachers need to teach "intensive" phonics, which requires that children learn all the major rules of phonics in a strict order. Studies show that intensive phonics instruction results in better test scores only on tests in which children pronounce words presented in isolation. Intensive phonics makes no significant contribution to performance on tests in which children have to understand what they read.
   There is overwhelming research showing that real reading ability is the result of actual reading, especially of books that readers find very interesting. 

Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/08/opinion/teachers-arent-dumb.html?emc=edit_tnt_20150908&nlid=5100421&tntemail0=y&_r=0

Some sources:

Effect of phonemic awareness training:  Krashen, S. (2001). Does “pure” phonemic awareness training affect reading comprehension? Perceptual and Motor Skills, 93, 356-358.
Coles, G. 2003. Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, legislation, and lies. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
The limited impact of phonics:
Garan, E. 2001. Beyond the smoke and mirrors: A critique of the National Reading Panel report on phonics. Phi Delta Kappan 82, no. 7 (March), 500-506.
Coles, G. 2003. Reading the Naked Truth: Literacy, legislation, and lies. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Krashen, S. 2009. Does intensive decoding instruction contribute
to reading comprehension? Knowledge Quest 37 (4): 72-74.
The impact of real reading:
Flurkey, A. and Xu, J. (Eds). 2003. On the Revolution in Reading: The Selected Writings of Kenneth S. Goodman. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann Publishing Company and Libraries Unlimited.
Smith, F. 2004. Understanding Reading. Sixth Edition, Routledge. 2004.
Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. (2014). Vocabulary from adolescence to middle age. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London. www.cls.ioe.ac.uk

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